Legal Q&A: Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notices and shadow premises licences

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Pest control: an officer of the council is entitled to serve a HEPN if they feel there is an imminent risk to human health, according to Poppleston Allen
Pest control: an officer of the council is entitled to serve a HEPN if they feel there is an imminent risk to human health, according to Poppleston Allen
The latest legal Q&A from specialist licensing solicitors Poppleston Allen addresses the serving of Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notices and shadow premises licences.

I saw a mouse, where?

Q: During service last night a food safety officer from the council came in and said she was here to carry out an inspection following a sighting of a mouse from a member of the public. She said she found evidence of pests and served a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice (HEPN) – I don’t know what to do?

A: An officer of the council is entitled to serve a HEPN if they feel there is an imminent risk to human health. If they have found evidence of pest activity in food preparation/serving areas, this is likely to be the reasoning behind the officer believing the health risk is present.

This will require your premises to remain closed until the officer is content that the health risk is no longer present. The officer will want to re-inspect the premises in a couple of days or when you contact the officer to tell her you have made the required improvements. Once satisfied that you can reopen, the prohibition will be lifted.

The council may seek an order from the magistrates’ court validating its prohibition order. It will provide evidence to the court of why they believe the prohibition was required and you will have a chance to either agree or oppose their evidence. If the court agrees with the council, it will make an order and you may also have to pay costs.

Failing to comply with the terms of such an order will inevitably lead to prosecution and a potentially high fine or even imprisonment.

Equally, the fact that the order has been lifted does not preclude the authority from seeking to prosecute you on the facts that gave rise to the service of the order in the first place.

Shadow premises licence

Q: I am a tenant in my pub on the south coast. The landlord’s solicitors have told me they are applying for something called a ‘shadow premises licence’ and that I need not worry. Should I?

A: Shadow licences are still relatively rare, but sometimes the freehold or leasehold owners of licensed premises, where the premises licence is in the name of a tenant, like to have the security of a premises licence for the same premises in case the tenant’s licence lapses, for whatever reason, or the tenant refuses to transfer the premises licence back to the landlords at the end of the term.

This second, ‘shadow’ licence is never used unless the main licence cannot be used because it has lapsed or cannot be transferred. In those circumstances, the landlord can rely upon the shadow licence and transfer that licence, rather than the original one, to any incoming tenant. It allows continuity of business in the event of a dispute or lapse of the main licence. The police and other authorities sometimes raise an eyebrow at an application for a shadow licence, but this is mainly due to concerns that they will not know which licence is being operated, and such fears can be resolved by way of conditions or general agreement on the ground.

It should not concern you but if you have any doubt whatsoever you should obtain your own legal advice.

For any legal enquiries please visit Poppleston Allen's website​.

Related topics: Licensing law

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